A Christmas Wishlist for Social Media Improvements

by Brett Pollard on December 16, 2009

How social media can become even better

The rapid growth of social media has transformed the web into a powerful communication and networking tool.  Over the last several years we have witnessed a tremendous amount of social innovation which is certain to continue in 2010.  While there have been many great advancements, social sites are constantly redefining themselves and searching for an identity.  Here are some ways I think individual social media platforms can improve their services in the coming year.

social-media

Facebook

As the undisputed heavyweight champion in social media, Facebook has done many pioneering things to deserve their status.  It’s important to note that with success comes responsibility though.  The industry depends on Facebook to make sound decisions regarding their service in order to maintain public confidence.  If they get too greedy and take on the role of Big Brother, social media as a whole will suffer.

  1. Take privacy seriously – What in the world were they thinking?  When Facebook recently pulled their privacy setting stunt, they set back social media immeasurably.  Part of what makes social media work is trust in the provider.  When millions of people submit and share their personal information, it doesn’t play well when their trust is compromised by the industry Goliath.  I don’t have a problem with Facebook trying to monetize their massive amounts of data, but this was a deceptive, bush-league move exposing the personal information of their users.  In order to fix this problem, I believe they should publicly acknowledge the mistake and enhance the privacy settings on the site to give complete control over which information users would like to share – if at all.
  2. Improve the functionality of Facebook lists – Wouldn’t it be nice if you could post status updates visible only to specific lists?  This way personal updates can remain personal and business updates will be seen only by business contacts.  Let’s be honest.  High school friends probably don’t have any interest in comments about my particular industry.  Likewise, my business contacts don’t need to see my personal status updates.  UPDATE:  This can now be accomplished by clicking on the “lock” icon to the bottom right of your status update box.
  3. Bring back the old newsfeed – At the risk of sounding like a Facebook whiner, I can’t stand the latest changes to their newsfeed.   Simply put, I want to decide which updates are of interest to me – not Facebook.

Twitter

For all of Twitter’s shortcomings, it remains a simple and effective social media tool.  However, I’m constantly puzzled by the fact that most of the innovation on Twitter has been user created or developed by third parties.  When there are hundreds of applications developed to make the Twitter experience better, something is obviously missing from the service itself.  While I applaud them for recently adding the lists and retweet features, both were long overdue.

  1. Require email validation – This one is a no-brainer.  It’s no secret that Twitter has a lot of tweet spam.  If not for hashtags and Twitter search, it would be nearly impossible to find the good content amongst all the garbage.  By adding email validation to their signup process, Twitter could take a small step forward in curtailing the problem.
  2. Add converstation threads – If you’ve ever tried to communicate back and forth with another user on Twitter, you were probably frustrated by the process.  Organizing these conversations into a thread so you can easily view the history would be a very nice addition to the service.
  3. Add DM threads – Just like conversation threads, the DM feature does not include a history of direct message exchanges with other users.  Adding this functionality would make it easier to communicate privately within Twitter.
  4. Integrate picture and video hosting – I’m honestly surprised they haven’t done this yet.  There has been much speculation on how Twitter intends to monetize the incredible amount of traffic they manage and this is one way to do it.   Don’t be surprised if Twitter buys services like Twitpic and Twitvid in the near future.

Tumblr

For those of you that haven’t discovered Tumblr yet, it’s worth exploring.  As a micro-blogging service, it has some really interesting benefits over Twitter (see 8 Reasons Why Tumblr is Better Than Twitter).  In some ways, I really appreciate the artsy, avant-garde community that has evolved on the site, but it has the potential to be so much more than that.

  1. Make it more social – Yes you can follow other micro-bloggers on Tumblr, but the process is hindered by weak search and the inability to follow directly from the search results.  Tumblr requires you to click through to the blog itself in order to follow another person.  Why not add follow suggestions on the dashboard based on the content from the users you are already following?
  2. Allow comments – Being able to comment on posts from others would certainly improve the lack of dialogue on Tumblr.  Obviously comments would require approval from the author, but it sure would be nice to see the responses.
  3. Editing posts on your own Tumblr page – The only way to edit something you have previously posted is to track it down on the Tumblr dashboard.  It would be nice if they added an edit button to each post on your Tumblr page  much like WordPress.
  4. Messaging between users – One of the things that makes social media great is the ability to communicate with others of similar interests.  A simple integrated direct message box on the Tumblr dashboard would be useful.

LinkedIn

There is no doubt LinkedIn is the best social site for professional networking.  Savvy use of their services can undoubtedly connect you with new business opportunities.  On the other hand, their efforts to make the site more feature-rich for paid subscribers has left room for improvement in their free services.

  1. Allow members to extract contact data – LinkedIn does offer some ability to do this now but you cannot export all of the data fields (city, phone number, notes) without using a third party service.
  2. Improve the usefulness of LinkedIn groups – While “groups” is a nice feature, it lacks communication and management options available on other sites.  A general overhaul using Yahoo Groups or Google Groups as a model would be a big improvement.
  3. Offer cheaper personal subscriptions – While LinkedIn does offer a few advanced features for $24.95 per month ($300 per year) or more , there is no solution for a scaled back set of advanced features at a reduced rate.  Surely they can offer some additional benefits for $10 a month.  There’s probably a much bigger market for them at that price point anyway.

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